After finding a dual language immersion program that fits your needs, you may want to go online to the dual language school's website to get information about the school and its dual language immersion program. After getting familiar with the dual language school and the dual language immersion program, you should feel comfortable in calling the school and asking to speak with the principal or the person in charge of the dual language immersion program at the school. You should then make an appointment to meet with the school representative who can explain the program to you.Questions you might want to consider asking or observations you may want to make during your visit to the school include:
Is there evidence that this is a bilingual school?
- Schools with a dual language immersion program should have signs and bulletin boards outside and inside of the school in both English and the target language. Newsletters being sent home from the school should be in both English and the target language, as should all printed materials for the dual language immersion program. There should be a wide variety of materials available in the target language in the school library and in each dual language immersion classroom.
Is the front office staff bilingual?
- Are you greeted in the target language or do you hear the staff using the target language with other staff and/or students? Is the language used in a positive manner, not just for disciplinary reasons?
Is the principal bilingual?
- Does the principal have the ability to interact in the target language with parents, students, and staff? Can the principal explain the dual language immersion program? Is the principal supportive? Is the principal an advocate for the program?
Is there school board and district support for the program?
- The school should be able to describe the district's and the school board's support for the dual language immersion program. District and school board support is important for sustaining the program over time and making sure that resources are adequate for the program to ensure student success, academically and linguistically.
How long has the dual language immersion program been in existence?
- If this is a new dual language immersion program, you might want to consider asking questions about the program's vision and mission. The principal and the school staff should be able to explain how the program will grow and be sustained from kindergarten through high school. If the program has been in existence for some time, the principal and staff should be able to share academic achievement and language acquisition scores that support the goals of the program.
Is this a full-school program or a strand within the school?
- If all the classrooms in the school are dual language immersion, then it is considered a full-school program. If there only a few classes at each grade level that are dual language immersion, then it is considered a strand within the school. If it is a strand within the school, it is important that the program be supported by staff and students that are not in the program, including opportunities for all students in the school to learn a second language, such as offering an after-school Spanish class, for example.
Is this a 90/10 or 50/50 model, and can you explain this?
- The principal or school staff member that you meet with should be able to explain the school's dual language immersion program model. A 90/10 dual language immersion model begins at kindergarten with 90% of the instruction in the target language and 10% of the instruction in English. The percentage of target language instruction decreases and the percentage of English instruction increases at each grade level until about fourth grade, when the percentages each reach 50%. Once the 50/50 ratio of instruction is reached, it stays 50/50 for the remaining elementary grades. The 50/50 dual language immersion model begins at kindergarten with 50% of the instruction in the target language and 50% of the instruction in English. This 50/50 ratio is maintained all through the elementary grades. The percentage of target language instruction at the secondary level varies, ranging from 50% to 30% or less.
Are all the teachers fully qualified with bilingual certification?
- All teachers in the dual language immersion program should be fully qualified, certificated, and proficient in the language that they are teaching.
How can I support my child in this program?
Parents should be encouraged to become an active part of the school through attendance at special programs, volunteering in the classroom or other venues, and being part of school governance (for example, the School Site Council [SSC]) and organizations such as the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Parents can support their children by reading to them at home in their home language and discussing their school work.